NEW YORK — This magical run of Leylah Annie Fernandez keeps going, and with the level of tennis she has produced in three consecutive upsets of top-20 players, it might just carry her to the U.S. Open title.
Fernandez, the Canadian lefty who turned 19 on Monday, put together another stunning third-set performance at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday to knock out No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 after 2 hours and 24 grueling minutes and advance to the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time.
After pulling off an upset of two-time U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka last Friday that put her on the map, Fernandez has used her speed, her serve and her devastating forehand to back it up with wins over former Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber and now Svitolina, who won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics last month.
Given her inexperience in big matches, logic would suggest Fernandez would at some point crash back to earth under pressure. Instead, she has consistently played her boldest, most fearless tennis when it matters most, coming up with flashy winners — and it was the more experienced Svitolina who played more nervously in the most important moments.
Only when Fernandez served for the match at 5-3 did she blink, tossing Svitolina a lifeline with a double fault and unforced error that helped get her the match back on even terms with a break.
From there, both players held serve until the tiebreak where Fernandez got out to a 4-1 lead as Svitolina tried to play conservatively and ended up making a series of errors as a result.
Svitolina, though, fought back and got the tiebreak to 5-5. It was the next point that proved to be decisive. After a long baseline rally that eventually drew Svitolina into the net, Fernandez had to race to the forehand corner to retrieve an approach shot that looked like it was ticketed to be a Svitolina winner.
Instead, Fernandez was able to sweep down the line where it kissed the top of the net and past Svitolina, who had no chance to make a play on the ball.
At 6-5, Fernandez’s first serve found Svitolina’s backhand, which sailed long as Fernandez fell to the ground in disbelief.
There wasn’t much in Fernandez’s 2021 season to suggest this kind of deep Grand Slam run was coming. Though she did win her maiden WTA title in Acapulco in March, her record against top-50 players this year was just 3-7 and she hadn’t advanced past the second round of the main draw in any of her last 11 tournaments.
But at the U.S. Open, she has found a completely different level of tennis. Against Svitolina, she hit 42 winners and won 19 of 24 points when she came to the net.
Fernandez will face the winner between No. 8 seed Barbora Krejcikova and No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, who play later Tuesday.
Follow Dan Wolken on Twitter @DanWolken
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US Open: Leylah Fernandez advances to semifinals with another shocker